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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton acquitted on all impeachment articles: Everything we know

Paxton had faced 20 articles of impeachment, but senators were only hearing 16 of the articles in the trial, which spanned nearly two weeks at the Texas Capitol.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas senators on Saturday acquitted Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 impeachment articles in his trial, allowing him to return to office immediately.

A two-thirds vote in favor of finding Paxton guilty was required to sustain any of the impeachment articles, but none of the votes reached that threshold, or even a majority in favor of guilty.

Most of the articles were voted down 16-14, though one failed 28-2 and another failed 22-8.

Texas senators debated from around noon Friday and into the evening hours, before returning to the Capitol for more deliberations Saturday morning. Around 9:45 a.m., Texas Senate officials announced that senators were ready to vote. An initially scheduled vote for 10:30 a.m. was pushed to 11:10 a.m.

The senators then began voting on each article of impeachment individually, writing "yay" or "nay" on a piece of paper. A clerk would then read each senator's vote aloud to the crowd, and then Patrick would confirm each senator's vote.

By 1 p.m., Paxton, who was not present for the vote, was acquitted on all articles of impeachment.

Paxton had faced 20 articles of impeachment, but senators were only hearing 16 of the articles in the trial, which spanned nearly two weeks at the Texas Capitol in Austin. 

After Paxton was acquitted on the 16 articles Saturday, senators voted 19-11 to dismiss the remaining four articles of impeachment that were not heard at trial.

The allegations against Paxton ranged from bribery to disregard of duty and misuse of power. Much of the case surrounded Paxton’s friendship with Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer at the center of bribery accusations against Paxton.

"Today, the truth prevailed," Paxton said in a statement shortly after the votes were tallied. "The truth could not be buried by mudslinging politicians or their powerful benefactors. I've said many times: Seek the truth! And that is what was accomplished."

Lt. Gov. Patrick, who presided over the trial as the president of the Texas Senate, formally reinstated Paxton to office after the votes were tallies. Paxton was suspended in May, when the Texas House impeached him.

Patrick, who has yet to comment on Paxton's impeachment as the presiding judge, delivered sharp criticism of the Texas House's process in impeaching Paxton, calling the proceeding rushed as a last-minute act in the legislature session.

"In the House, the vote to send the articles of impeachment against the attorney general to the senate happened in only a few days, with virtually no time for 150 members to even study the articles," Patrick said. "The speaker [Dade Phelan] and his team ran through the first impeachment of a statewide official in Texas in over 100 years, while paying no attention to the precedent that the House set in every other impeachment before."

Patrick went as far to say that legislators in the next session should amend the Texas constitution to require that testimony in a House impeachment investigation should be given under oath, with a lawyer present. 

Patrick also ordered a full audit of the money that was spent putting on the Paxton investigation and trial. The total cost to the state is unknown, though the attorneys hired by the House to prosecute Patrick were being paid $500 per hour.

Rep. Andrew Murr, who led the House Impeachment Manager prosecuting Paxton, said prosecutors "met our burden of proof" in their case against Paxton.

"At the end of the day, you have to understand, we provided all of the evidence that you would in a formal trial, encased and wrapped up in a political trial," Murr said. "I would not do anything differently."

RELATED: Lawmakers, politicians react to Paxton's acquittal

Who voted in support of Paxton?

Paxton heading into Saturday was presumed to have a solid base of six Texas senators in his support; six -- Lois Kolkhorst, Paul Bettencourt, Brandon Creighton, Tan Parker, Bob Hall and Donna Campbell -- had voted before the trial to dismiss all articles of impeachment. And a couple others had voted to dismiss lesser amounts of articles.

But the question as senators began deliberating on Friday centered on how many Republican senators would side with Paxton -- and if that number would be less than the 10 votes of support he needed on each impeachment article, presuming all Democrats voted against him.

That question appeared to be quickly answered as the voting began Saturday morning: The first three articles of impeachment failed 16-14, the 14 votes being well below the 21 needed to convict Paxton.

Among the 16 votes of support Paxton received were the six senators who initially voted to dismiss all articles before the trial, as well as: Bryan Hughes, Pete Flores, Kevin Sparks, Joan Huffman, Phil King, Drew Springer, Mayes Middleton, Charles Perry, Brian Birdwell and Charles Schwertner.

Those 16 Republicans remained a stronghold for Paxton throughout the 16 votes held Saturday, and for Paxton, his number of supporters did not fall below 16. It only went up, to 17 votes, 22 votes and 28 votes on separate articles.

Republicans Kelly Hancock (North Richland Hills) and Robert Nichols (Jacksonville) were two from the GOP side who cast votes against Paxton.

On the 12 votes that failed 16-14, Hancock and Nichols voted against Paxton. On the 17-13 vote, Hancock voted against Paxton. On the 22-8 vote, Nichols voted against Paxton. Both voted for Paxton on an 18-12 vote.

What were the Paxton impeachment vote counts?

Here's how the vote results happened Saturday:

Article 1: Disregard of official duty - Protection of charitable organization - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

Article 2: Disregard of official duty - Abuse of the opinion process - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

Article 3: Disregard of official duty - Abuse of the open records process - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

Article 4: Disregard of official duty - Misuse of official information - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 2

No (acquit votes): 28

Article 5: Disregard of official duty - Engagement of Cammack - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 13

No (acquit votes): 17

Article 6: Disregard of official duty - Termination of whistleblowers - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

Article 7: Misapplication of public resources - Whistleblower investigation and report - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

Article 8: Disregard of official duty - Settlement agreement - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 8

No (acquit votes): 22

Article 9: Constitutional bribery - Paul's employment of mistress - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 12

No (acquit votes): 18

Article 10: Constitutional bribery - Paul's renovations to Paxton home - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

Article 15: False statements in official records - Whistleblower response report - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

Article 16: Conspiracy and attempted conspiracy - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

Article 17: Misappropriation of public resources - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

Article 18: Dereliction of duty - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

Article 19: Unfitness for office - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

Article 20: Abuse of public trust - ACQUITTED

Yes (convict votes): 14

No (acquit votes): 16

What were the arguments in the trial?

Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee blamed the impeachment on a purported power struggle within the Republican party, going as far to call out the Bush family. George P. Bush, the grandson of George H.W. Bush, ran against Paxton in the Republican primary in 2022 but lost.

"The Bush era in Texas ends today," Buzbee told senators in his closing argument. "We thought it had ended in the primary when Paxton beat George P. Bush. Well, now we had an impeachment trial. It ends today. They can go back to Maine. This is Texas."

House Impeachment Managers Andrew Murr and Jeff Leach, both state representatives, delivered the closing argument for the prosecution. Leach’s delivery, which came as the final word against Paxton, was notable in that he was a close friend and ally of Paxton. Both men are conservatives from Collin County, and Leach described Paxton as a mentor.

“This has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Leach told the senators. “I believe that it is right, as painful as it might be, for you to vote to sustain the articles of impeachment commended to you by the Texas House of Representatives.”

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